The private sector has asked government to focus allocation of the P32 billion stimulus package for “productivity” and value-added farm goods such as livestock and fishery, not just on rice and corn, to enable economic resurgence amid the Covid 19 crisis.
In a letter to Congress’s ESRP (Economic Stimulus Response Package) chairperson, Rep. Joey Salceda and Agriculture Sec. William D. Dar, the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) acknowledged the significant value of the P32 billion ESRP.
Nevertheless, with the budget’s limitation compared to the gargantuan need in agriculture , PCAFI asserted the budget should primarily zero in on productivity even in livestock, fishery, export-oriented fruits and vegetables that bring higher income.
“Focus should be on productivity, in time for the increasing demand and consumption towards the 3rd and 4th quarter of 2020, as a result of the grand stimulus package in order for the Philippine economy to recover,” said PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto.
“While the P 32.0 Billion proposed supplemental budget will be of tremendous help to enable the agriculture stakeholders to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic that brought havoc to the industry, we feel it is inadequate and might leave the exclusions of concerns not properly addressed.”
It is important to allocate budget for logistics to move fish and agriculture goods, not only in Luzon, but in Mindanao.
“A lot of these products are wasted due to suspension of airline operation, difficulty in the land transport of perishable fruits, vegetables, fish, meat (specifically pork) and including fingerlings. Since these products are highly perishable, they need enhancement for cold chain support (refrigerated trucks),” said Fausto.
Budget for artificial insemination (AI) in reproducing livestock and for controlling ASF (African swine flu) is also important.
“There is an obvious slant towards rice and corn. Aside from rice, livestock, fishery and aqua need help. The ASF task force are running out of kits and lack veterinarians to monitor the livestock industry. There is a need to provide support on a consistent manner not only when disease outbreaks occur.”
PCAFI also asked government to channel a P1.5 billion budget to more “value added” dairy, poultry, hogs, fisheries, and feed crops.
This P1.5 billion budget is originally proposed for urban agriculture and protective personal equipment (P500 million each); corn for food project (P300 million; and information, education and communications (P200 million).
“We would like to recommend that portions thereof be transferred to dairy, poultry, hogs, fisheries, and feed crops. These sectors have been hit hard by the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) with the closure or limited working hours of food outlets and will continue to suffer losses even under a GCQ (general community quarantine,” said Fausto.
To maximize productivity that will generate higher income for farmers and enable them to contribute to higher GDP (gross domestic product), these are proposed by PCAFI under government’s “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Kontra sa COVID-19“:
- Programs that will encourage meat processors to use local supply, requiring minimum inclusion of local producers
- Inclusion of stimulus budget for agricultural producers, processors and suppliers of raw materials for high value fruits, vegetables and other commodities for export and local markets
- Programs to make corn (for animal feed) more competitive even during rainy season to ensure consistent supply and quality to the poultry or livestock sectors
- Production of feed grade animal feeds including copra and coconut oil, palm oil, and production of fish oil and fish meal as an alternative to the imported soybean meal for protein content of feeds
- Establishment of more laboratories to be accredited at strategic locations due to GCQ (General Community Quarantine) reason
“Credit guarantees should be focused towards the agriculture sector where banks shied away due to the risk inherent to food production. Guarantees should also be provided for suppliers of inputs who provide credit to farmer producers especially the small and medium livestock owners majority of which are asking for a reprieve on their payables due to huge losses,” Fausto said.
Equal attention should be provided in budgeting for the following.
· Improvement of irrigation system
· Fertilizers to sustain and increase crop and vegetable production
· Start-up planning and showcasing of “Balik Probinsya” resettlement and inclusive agribusiness under government and private sector partnership
· To encourage investment in rice production, the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation should provide insurance “unconditionally” to palay producers guaranteeing the return of capital (at say P 45,000.00 per hectare) in case of natural calamities
“Price support and subsidy should be provided to rice farmers guaranteeing minimum purchase price of palay at P17 per kilo.”
This was reportedly the original breakdown for the P32 budget under which rice continues to take up the biggest chunk of the budget:
P 8.5 billion – rice resiliency project
P 7 billion – palay procurement fund of the National Food Authority
P 3 billion – expanded SURE Aid and recovery (loan to farmers at zero interest)
P 3 billion – expanded agriculture insurance
P3 billion – social amelioration for farmers and farm workers
P 1 billion – upscaling of KADIWA ni Ani at Kita
P1 billion – integrated livestock and corn resiliency project
P1 billion – expanded small ruminants and poultry project; i)
P1billion– coconut-based diversification
P 1 billion- fisheries resiliency project
P 1 billion–revitalized gulayan
P 500 million – urban agriculture
P500 million– acquisition of protective personal equipment
P 300 million – corn for food project
P 200 M – information, education and communications project
The letter was also sent to ESRP Cluster co-chairpersons, Rep. Sharon S. Garin and Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo, and Agriculture and Food chairperson Wilfrido Mark M. Enverga.